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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson

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went back to Nice. But the real reason why you have been more in
my mind than usual is because of some little verses that I have
been writing, and that I mean to make a book of; and the real
reason of this letter (although I ought to have written to you
anyway) is that I have just seen that the book in question must be
dedicated to


the only person who will really understand it. I don't know when
it may be ready, for it has to be illustrated, but I hope in the
meantime you may like the idea of what is to be; and when the time
comes, I shall try to make the dedication as pretty as I can make
it. Of course, this is only a flourish, like taking off one's hat;
but still, a person who has taken the trouble to write things does
not dedicate them to any one without meaning it; and you must just
try to take this dedication in place of a great many things that I
might have said, and that I ought to have done, to prove that I am
not altogether unconscious of the great debt of gratitude I owe
you. This little book, which is all about my childhood, should
indeed go to no other person but you, who did so much to make that
childhood happy.

Do you know, we came very near sending for you this winter. If we
had not had news that you were ill too, I almost believe we should
have done so, we were so much in trouble.

I am now very well; but my wife has had a very, very bad spell,
through overwork and anxiety, when I was LOST! I suppose you heard
of that. She sends you her love, and hopes you will write to her,
though she no more than I deserves it. She would add a word
herself, but she is too played out. - I am, ever your old boy,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY

[NICE, MARCH 1883.]

MY DEAR LAD, - This is to announce to you the MS. of Nursery
Verses, now numbering XLVIII. pieces or 599 verses, which, of
course, one might augment AD INFINITUM.

But here is my notion to make all clear.

I do not want a big ugly quarto; my soul sickens at the look of a
quarto. I want a refined octavo, not large - not LARGER than the
DONKEY BOOK, at any price.

I think the full page might hold four verses of four lines, that is
to say, counting their blanks at two, of twenty-two lines in
height. The first page of each number would only hold two verses
or ten lines, the title being low down. At this rate, we should
have seventy-eight or eighty pages of letterpress.

The designs should not be in the text, but facing the poem; so that
if the artist liked, he might give two pages of design to every
poem that turned the leaf, I.E. longer than eight lines, I.E. to
twenty-eight out of the forty-six. I should say he would not use
this privilege (?) above five times, and some he might scorn to
illustrate at all, so we may say fifty drawings. I shall come to
the drawings next.

But now you see my book of the thickness, since the drawings count
two pages, of 180 pages; and since the paper will perhaps be
thicker, of near two hundred by bulk. It is bound in a quiet green
with the words in thin gilt. Its shape is a slender, tall octavo.
And it sells for the publisher's fancy, and it will be a darling to
look at; in short, it would be like one of the original Heine books
in type and spacing.

Now for the pictures. I take another sheet and begin to jot notes
for them when my imagination serves: I will run through the book,
writing when I have an idea. There, I have jotted enough to give
the artist a notion. Of course, I don't do more than contribute
ideas, but I will be happy to help in any and every way. I may as
well add another idea; when the artist finds nothing much to
illustrate, a good drawing of any OBJECT mentioned in the text,
were it only a loaf of bread or a candlestick, is a most delightful
thing to a young child. I remember this keenly.

Of course, if the artist insists on a larger form, I must I
suppose, bow my head. But my idea I am convinced is the best, and
would make the book truly, not fashionably pretty.

I forgot to mention that I shall have a dedication; I am going to
dedicate 'em to Cummy; it will please her, and lighten a little my
burthen of ingratitude. A low affair is the Muse business.

I will add no more to this lest you should want to communicate with
the artist; try another sheet. I wonder how many I'll keep
wandering to.

O I forgot. As for the title, I think 'Nursery Verses' the best.
Poetry is not the strong point of the text, and I shrink from any
title that might seem to claim that quality; otherwise we might
have 'Nursery Muses' or 'New Songs of Innocence' (but that were a
blasphemy), or 'Rimes of Innocence': the last not bad, or - an
idea - 'The Jews' Harp,' or - now I have it - 'The Penny Whistle.'


And here we have an excellent frontispiece, of a party playing on a
P. W. to a little ring of dancing children.

is the name for me.

Fool! this is all wrong, here is the true name:-


The second title is queried, it is perhaps better, as simply PENNY

Nor you, O Penny Whistler, grudge
That I your instrument debase:
By worse performers still we judge,
And give that fife a second place!

Crossed penny whistles on the cover, or else a sheaf of 'em.


IV. The procession - the child running behind it. The procession
tailing off through the gates of a cloudy city.

IX. FOREIGN LANDS. - This will, I think, want two plates - the
child climbing, his first glimpse over the garden wall, with what
he sees - the tree shooting higher and higher like the beanstalk,
and the view widening. The river slipping in. The road arriving
in Fairyland.

X. WINDY NIGHTS. - The child in bed listening - the horseman

XII. The child helplessly watching his ship - then he gets smaller,
and the doll joyfully comes alive - the pair landing on the island
- the ship's deck with the doll steering and the child firing the
penny canon. Query two plates? The doll should never come
properly alive.

XV. Building of the ship - storing her - Navigation - Tom's
accident, the other child paying no attention.

XXXI. THE WIND. - I sent you my notion of already.

XXXVII. FOREIGN CHILDREN. - The foreign types dancing in a jing-a-
ring, with the English child pushing in the middle. The foreign
children looking at and showing each other marvels. The English
child at the leeside of a roast of beef. The English child sitting
thinking with his picture-books all round him, and the jing-a-ring
of the foreign children in miniature dancing over the picture-

XXXIX. Dear artist, can you do me that?

XLII. The child being started off - the bed sailing, curtains and
all, upon the sea - the child waking and finding himself at home;
the corner of toilette might be worked in to look like the pier.

XLVII. The lighted part of the room, to be carefully distinguished
from my child's dark hunting grounds. A shaded lamp.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - It must be at least a fortnight since we have had
a scratch of a pen from you; and if it had not been for Cummy's
letter, I should have feared you were worse again: as it is, I
hope we shall hear from you to-day or to-morrow at latest.


Our news is good: Fanny never got so bad as we feared, and we hope
now that this attack may pass off in threatenings. I am greatly
better, have gained flesh, strength, spirits; eat well, walk a good
deal, and do some work without fatigue. I am off the sick list.


We have found a house up the hill, close to the town, an excellent
place though very, very little. If I can get the landlord to agree
to let us take it by the month just now, and let our month's rent
count for the year in case we take it on, you may expect to hear we
are again installed, and to receive a letter dated thus:-

La Solitude,

If the man won't agree to that, of course I must just give it up,
as the house would be dear enough anyway at 2000 f. However, I
hope we may get it, as it is healthy, cheerful, and close to shops,
and society, and civilisation. The garden, which is above, is
lovely, and will be cool in summer. There are two rooms below with
a kitchen, and four rooms above, all told. - Ever your affectionate




DEAR SIR, - Your undated favour from Eastbourne came to hand in
course of post, and I now hasten to acknowledge its receipt. We
must ask you in future, for the convenience of our business
arrangements, to struggle with and tread below your feet this most
unsatisfactory and uncommercial habit. Our Mr. Cassandra is
better; our Mr. Wogg expresses himself dissatisfied with our new
place of business; when left alone in the front shop, he bawled
like a parrot; it is supposed the offices are haunted.

To turn to the matter of your letter, your remarks on GREAT
EXPECTATIONS are very good. We have both re-read it this winter,
and I, in a manner, twice. The object being a play; the play, in
its rough outline, I now see: and it is extraordinary how much of
Dickens had to be discarded as unhuman, impossible, and
ineffective: all that really remains is the loan of a file (but
from a grown-up young man who knows what he was doing, and to a
convict who, although he does not know it is his father - the
father knows it is his son), and the fact of the convict-father's
return and disclosure of himself to the son whom he has made rich.
Everything else has been thrown aside; and the position has had to
be explained by a prologue which is pretty strong. I have great
hopes of this piece, which is very amiable and, in places, very
strong indeed: but it was curious how Dickens had to be rolled
away; he had made his story turn on such improbabilities, such
fantastic trifles, not on a good human basis, such as I recognised.
You are right about the casts, they were a capital idea; a good
description of them at first, and then afterwards, say second, for
the lawyer to have illustrated points out of the history of the
originals, dusting the particular bust - that was all the
development the thing would bear. Dickens killed them. The only
really well EXECUTED scenes are the riverside ones; the escape in
particular is excellent; and I may add, the capture of the two
convicts at the beginning. Miss Havisham is, probably, the worst
thing in human fiction. But Wemmick I like; and I like Trabb's
boy; and Mr. Wopsle as Hamlet is splendid.

The weather here is greatly improved, and I hope in three days to
be in the chalet. That is, if I get some money to float me there.

I hope you are all right again, and will keep better. The month of
March is past its mid career; it must soon begin to turn toward the
lamb; here it has already begun to do so; and I hope milder weather
will pick you up. Wogg has eaten a forpet of rice and milk, his
beard is streaming, his eyes wild. I am besieged by demands of
work from America.

The 50 pounds has just arrived; many thanks; I am now at ease. -
Ever your affectionate son, PRO Cassandra, Wogg and Co.,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FRIEND, - I am one of the lowest of the - but that's
understood. I received the copy, excellently written, with I think
only one slip from first to last. I have struck out two, and added
five or six; so they now number forty-five; when they are fifty,
they shall out on the world. I have not written a letter for a
cruel time; I have been, and am, so busy, drafting a long story
(for me, I mean), about a hundred CORNHILL pages, or say about as
long as the Donkey book: PRINCE OTTO it is called, and is, at the
present hour, a sore burthen but a hopeful. If I had him all
drafted, I should whistle and sing. But no: then I'll have to
rewrite him; and then there will be the publishers, alas! But some
time or other, I shall whistle and sing, I make no doubt.

I am going to make a fortune, it has not yet begun, for I am not
yet clear of debt; but as soon as I can, I begin upon the fortune.
I shall begin it with a halfpenny, and it shall end with horses and
yachts and all the fun of the fair. This is the first real grey
hair in my character: rapacity has begun to show, the greed of the
protuberant guttler. Well, doubtless, when the hour strikes, we
must all guttle and protube. But it comes hard on one who was
always so willow-slender and as careless as the daisies.

Truly I am in excellent spirits. I have crushed through a
financial crisis; Fanny is much better; I am in excellent health,
and work from four to five hours a day - from one to two above my
average, that is; and we all dwell together and make fortunes in
the loveliest house you ever saw, with a garden like a fairy story,
and a view like a classical landscape.

Little? Well, it is not large. And when you come to see us, you
will probably have to bed at the hotel, which is hard by. But it
is Eden, madam, Eden and Beulah and the Delectable Mountains and
Eldorado and the Hesperidean Isles and Bimini.

We both look forward, my dear friend, with the greatest eagerness
to have you here. It seems it is not to be this season; but I
appoint you with an appointment for next season. You cannot see us
else: remember that. Till my health has grown solid like an oak-
tree, till my fortune begins really to spread its boughs like the
same monarch of the woods (and the acorn, ay de mi! is not yet
planted), I expect to be a prisoner among the palms.

Yes, it is like old times to be writing you from the Riviera, and
after all that has come and gone who can predict anything? How
fortune tumbles men about! Yet I have not found that they change
their friends, thank God.

Both of our loves to your sister and yourself. As for me, if I am
here and happy, I know to whom I owe it; I know who made my way for
me in life, if that were all, and I remain, with love, your
faithful friend,




MY DEAR GOSSE, - I am very guilty; I should have written to you
long ago; and now, though it must be done, I am so stupid that I
can only boldly recapitulate. A phrase of three members is the
outside of my syntax.

First, I liked the ROVER better than any of your other verse. I
believe you are right, and can make stories in verse. The last two
stanzas and one or two in the beginning - but the two last above
all - I thought excellent. I suggest a pursuit of the vein. If
you want a good story to treat, get the MEMOIRS OF THE CHEVALIER
JOHNSTONE, and do his passage of the Tay; it would be excellent:
the dinner in the field, the woman he has to follow, the dragoons,
the timid boatmen, the brave lasses. It would go like a charm;
look at it, and you will say you owe me one.

Second, Gilder asking me for fiction, I suddenly took a great
resolve, and have packed off to him my new work, THE SILVERADO
SQUATTERS. I do not for a moment suppose he will take it; but pray
say all the good words you can for it. I should be awfully glad to
get it taken. But if it does not mean dibbs at once, I shall be
ruined for life. Pray write soon and beg Gilder your prettiest for
a poor gentleman in pecuniary sloughs.

Fourth, next time I am supposed to be at death's door, write to me
like a Christian, and let not your correspondence attend on
business. - Yours ever,

R. L. S.

P.S. - I see I have led you to conceive the SQUATTERS are fiction.
They are not, alas!



MY DEAREST PEOPLE, - I have had a great piece of news. There has
been offered for TREASURE ISLAND - how much do you suppose? I
believe it would be an excellent jest to keep the answer till my
next letter. For two cents I would do so. Shall I? Anyway, I'll
turn the page first. No - well - A hundred pounds, all alive, O!
A hundred jingling, tingling, golden, minted quid. Is not this
wonderful? Add that I have now finished, in draft, the fifteenth
chapter of my novel, and have only five before me, and you will see
what cause of gratitude I have.

The weather, to look at the per contra sheet, continues vomitable;
and Fanny is quite out of sorts. But, really, with such cause of
gladness, I have not the heart to be dispirited by anything. My
child's verse book is finished, dedication and all, and out of my
hands - you may tell Cummy; SILVERADO is done, too, and cast upon
the waters; and this novel so near completion, it does look as if I
should support myself without trouble in the future. If I have
only health, I can, I thank God. It is dreadful to be a great, big
man, and not be able to buy bread.

O that this may last!

I have to-day paid my rent for the half year, till the middle of
September, and got my lease: why they have been so long, I know

I wish you all sorts of good things.

When is our marriage day? - Your loving and ecstatic son,


It has been for me a Treasure Island verily.



MY DEAR PEOPLE, - I was disgusted to hear my father was not so
well. I have a most troubled existence of work and business. But
the work goes well, which is the great affair. I meant to have
written a most delightful letter; too tired, however, and must
stop. Perhaps I'll find time to add to it ere post.

I have returned refreshed from eating, but have little time, as
Lloyd will go soon with the letters on his way to his tutor, Louis
Robert (!!!!), with whom he learns Latin in French, and French, I
suppose, in Latin, which seems to me a capital education. He,
Lloyd, is a great bicycler already, and has been long distances; he
is most new-fangled over his instrument, and does not willingly
converse on other subjects.

Our lovely garden is a prey to snails; I have gathered about a
bushel, which, not having the heart to slay, I steal forth withal
and deposit near my neighbour's garden wall. As a case of
casuistry, this presents many points of interest. I loathe the
snails, but from loathing to actual butchery, trucidation of
multitudes, there is still a step that I hesitate to take. What,
then, to do with them? My neighbour's vineyard, pardy! It is a
rich, villa, pleasure-garden of course; if it were a peasant's
patch, the snails, I suppose, would have to perish.

The weather these last three days has been much better, though it
is still windy and unkind. I keep splendidly well, and am cruelly
busy, with mighty little time even for a walk. And to write at
all, under such pressure, must be held to lean to virtue's side.

My financial prospects are shining. O if the health will hold, I
should easily support myself. - Your ever affectionate son,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - I enclose the receipt and the corrections. As for
your letter and Gilder's, I must take an hour or so to think; the
matter much importing - to me. The 40 pounds was a heavenly thing.

I send the MS. by Henley, because he acts for me in all matters,
and had the thing, like all my other books, in his detention. He
is my unpaid agent - an admirable arrangement for me, and one that
has rather more than doubled my income on the spot.

If I have been long silent, think how long you were so and blush,
sir, blush.

I was rendered unwell by the arrival of your cheque, and, like
Pepys, 'my hand still shakes to write of it.' To this grateful
emotion, and not to D.T., please attribute the raggedness of my

This year I should be able to live and keep my family on my own
earnings, and that in spite of eight months and more of perfect
idleness at the end of last and beginning of this. It is a sweet

This spot, our garden and our view, are sub-celestial. I sing
daily with my Bunyan, that great bard,

'I dwell already the next door to Heaven!'

If you could see my roses, and my aloes, and my fig-marigolds, and
my olives, and my view over a plain, and my view of certain
mountains as graceful as Apollo, as severe as Zeus, you would not
think the phrase exaggerated.

It is blowing to-day a HOT mistral, which is the devil or a near
connection of his.

This to catch the post. - Yours affectionately,




MY DEAR GOSSE, - The night giveth advice, generally bad advice; but
I have taken it. And I have written direct to Gilder to tell him
to keep the book back and go on with it in November at his leisure.
I do not know if this will come in time; if it doesn't, of course
things will go on in the way proposed. The 40 pounds, or, as I
prefer to put it, the 1000 francs, has been such a piercing sun-ray
as my whole grey life is gilt withal. On the back of it I can
endure. If these good days of LONGMAN and the CENTURY only last,
it will be a very green world, this that we dwell in and that
philosophers miscall. I have no taste for that philosophy; give me
large sums paid on the receipt of the MS. and copyright reserved,
and what do I care about the non-beent? Only I know it can't last.
The devil always has an imp or two in every house, and my imps are
getting lively. The good lady, the dear, kind lady, the sweet,
excellent lady, Nemesis, whom alone I adore, has fixed her wooden
eye upon me. I fall prone; spare me, Mother Nemesis! But catch

I must now go to bed; for I have had a whoreson influenza cold, and
have to lie down all day, and get up only to meals and the
delights, June delights, of business correspondence.

You said nothing about my subject for a poem. Don't you like it?
My own fishy eye has been fixed on it for prose, but I believe it
could be thrown out finely in verse, and hence I resign and pass
the hand. Twig the compliment? - Yours affectionately

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY

[HYERES, MAY 1883.]

. . . THE influenza has busted me a good deal; I have no spring,
and am headachy. So, as my good Red Lion Counter begged me for
another Butcher's Boy - I turned me to - what thinkest 'ou? - to
Tushery, by the mass! Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And
every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole
is his name: tush! a poor thing!

Will TREASURE ISLAND proofs be coming soon, think you?

I will now make a confession. It was the sight of your maimed
strength and masterfulness that begot John Silver in TREASURE
ISLAND. Of course, he is not in any other quality or feature the
least like you; but the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded
by the sound, was entirely taken from you.

Otto is, as you say, not a thing to extend my public on. It is
queer and a little, little bit free; and some of the parties are
immoral; and the whole thing is not a romance, nor yet a comedy;
nor yet a romantic comedy; but a kind of preparation of some of the
elements of all three in a glass jar. I think it is not without
merit, but I am not always on the level of my argument, and some
parts are false, and much of the rest is thin; it is more a triumph
for myself than anything else; for I see, beyond it, better stuff.
I have nine chapters ready, or almost ready, for press. My feeling
would be to get it placed anywhere for as much as could be got for
it, and rather in the shadow, till one saw the look of it in print.
- Ever yours,


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR LAD, - The books came some time since, but I have not had
the pluck to answer: a shower of small troubles having fallen in,
or troubles that may be very large.

I have had to incur a huge vague debt for cleaning sewers; our
house was (of course) riddled with hidden cesspools, but that was
infallible. I have the fever, and feel the duty to work very heavy
on me at times; yet go it must. I have had to leave FONTAINEBLEAU,
when three hours would finish it, and go full-tilt at tushery for a
while. But it will come soon.

I think I can give you a good article on Hokusai; but that is for
afterwards; FONTAINEBLEAU is first in hand

By the way, my view is to give the PENNY WHISTLES to Crane or
Greenaway. But Crane, I think, is likeliest; he is a fellow who,
at least, always does his best.

Shall I ever have money enough to write a play? O dire necessity!

A word in your ear: I don't like trying to support myself. I hate
the strain and the anxiety; and when unexpected expenses are
foisted on me, I feel the world is playing with false dice. - Now I
must Tush, adieu,


A lytle Jape of TUSHERIE.

By A. Tusher.

The pleasant river gushes
Among the meadows green;
At home the author tushes;
For him it flows unseen.

The Birds among the Bushes
May wanton on the spray;
But vain for him who tushes
The brightness of the day!

The frog among the rushes
Sits singing in the blue.
By'r la'kin! but these tushes
Are wearisome to do!

The task entirely crushes
The spirit of the bard:
God pity him who tushes -
His task is very hard.

The filthy gutter slushes,
The clouds are full of rain,
But doomed is he who tushes
To tush and tush again.

At morn with his hair-brUshes,
Still, 'tush' he says, and weeps;
At night again he tushes,
And tushes till he sleeps.

And when at length he pushes
Beyond the river dark -
'Las, to the man who tushes,
'Tush' shall be God's remark!

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR HENLEY, - You may be surprised to hear that I am now a great
writer of verses; that is, however, so. I have the mania now like
my betters, and faith, if I live till I am forty, I shall have a
book of rhymes like Pollock, Gosse, or whom you please. Really, I
have begun to learn some of the rudiments of that trade, and have
written three or four pretty enough pieces of octosyllabic
nonsense, semi-serious, semi-smiling. A kind of prose Herrick,
divested of the gift of verse, and you behold the Bard. But I like

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - I was delighted to hear the good news about -. Bravo,
he goes uphill fast. Let him beware of vanity, and he will go
higher; let him be still discontented, and let him (if it might be)
see the merits and not the faults of his rivals, and he may swarm
at last to the top-gallant. There is no other way. Admiration is
the only road to excellence; and the critical spirit kills, but
envy and injustice are putrefaction on its feet.

Thus far the moralist. The eager author now begs to know whether
you may have got the other Whistles, and whether a fresh proof is
to be taken; also whether in that case the dedication should not be
printed therewith; Bulk Delights Publishers (original aphorism; to
be said sixteen times in succession as a test of sobriety).

Your wild and ravening commands were received; but cannot be
obeyed. And anyway, I do assure you I am getting better every day;
and if the weather would but turn, I should soon be observed to
walk in hornpipes. Truly I am on the mend. I am still very
careful. I have the new dictionary; a joy, a thing of beauty, and
- bulk. I shall be raked i' the mools before it's finished; that
is the only pity; but meanwhile I sing.

I beg to inform you that I, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of
BRASHIANA and other works, am merely beginning to commence to
prepare to make a first start at trying to understand my
profession. O the height and depth of novelty and worth in any
art! and O that I am privileged to swim and shoulder through such
oceans! Could one get out of sight of land - all in the blue?
Alas not, being anchored here in flesh, and the bonds of logic
being still about us.

But what a great space and a great air there is in these small
shallows where alone we venture! and how new each sight, squall,
calm, or sunrise! An art is a fine fortune, a palace in a park, a
band of music, health, and physical beauty; all but love - to any
worthy practiser. I sleep upon my art for a pillow; I waken in my
art; I am unready for death, because I hate to leave it. I love my
wife, I do not know how much, nor can, nor shall, unless I lost
her; but while I can conceive my being widowed, I refuse the
offering of life without my art. I AM not but in my art; it is me;
I am the body of it merely.

And yet I produce nothing, am the author of BRASHIANA and other
works: tiddy-iddity - as if the works one wrote were anything but
'prentice's experiments. Dear reader, I deceive you with husks,
the real works and all the pleasure are still mine and
incommunicable. After this break in my work, beginning to return
to it, as from light sleep, I wax exclamatory, as you see.

Sursum Corda:
Heave ahead:
Here's luck.
Art and Blue Heaven,
April and God's Larks.
Green reeds and the sky-scattering river.
A stately music.
Enter God!

R. L. S.

Ay, but you know, until a man can write that 'Enter God,' he has
made no art! None! Come, let us take counsel together and make

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - Glad you like FONTAINEBLEAU. I am going to be the
means, under heaven, of aerating or liberating your pages. The
idea that because a thing is a picture-book all the writing should
be on the wrong tack is TRISTE but widespread. Thus Hokusai will
be really a gossip on convention, or in great part. And the Skelt
will be as like a Charles Lamb as I can get it. The writer should
write, and not illustrate pictures: else it's bosh. . . .

Your remarks about the ugly are my eye. Ugliness is only the prose
of horror. It is when you are not able to write MACBETH that you
write THERESE RAQUIN. Fashions are external: the essence of art
only varies in so far as fashion widens the field of its
application; art is a mill whose thirlage, in different ages,
widens and contracts; but, in any case and under any fashion, the
great man produces beauty, terror, and mirth, and the little man
produces cleverness (personalities, psychology) instead of beauty,
ugliness instead of terror, and jokes instead of mirth. As it was
in the beginning, is now, and shall be ever, world without end.

And even as you read, you say, 'Of course, QUELLE RENGAINE!'

R. L. S.



MY DEAR CUMMY, - Yes, I own I am a real bad correspondent, and am
as bad as can be in most directions.

I have been adding some more poems to your book. I wish they would
look sharp about it; but, you see, they are trying to find a good
artist to make the illustrations, without which no child would give
a kick for it. It will be quite a fine work, I hope. The
dedication is a poem too, and has been quite a long while written,
but I do not mean you to see it till you get the book; keep the
jelly for the last, you know, as you would often recommend in
former days, so now you can take your own medicine.

I am very sorry to hear you have been so poorly; I have been very
well; it used to be quite the other way, used it not? Do you
remember making the whistle at Mount Chessie? I do not think it
WAS my knife; I believe it was yours; but rhyme is a very great
monarch, and goes before honesty, in these affairs at least. Do
you remember, at Warriston, one autumn Sunday, when the beech nuts
were on the ground, seeing heaven open? I would like to make a
rhyme of that, but cannot.

Is it not strange to think of all the changes: Bob, Cramond,
Delhi, Minnie, and Henrietta, all married, and fathers and mothers,
and your humble servant just the one point better off? And such a
little while ago all children together! The time goes swift and
wonderfully even; and if we are no worse than we are, we should be
grateful to the power that guides us. For more than a generation I
have now been to the fore in this rough world, and been most
tenderly helped, and done cruelly wrong, and yet escaped; and here
I am still, the worse for wear, but with some fight in me still,
and not unthankful - no, surely not unthankful, or I were then the
worst of human beings!

My little dog is a very much better child in every way, both more
loving and more amiable; but he is not fond of strangers, and is,
like most of his kind, a great, specious humbug.

Fanny has been ill, but is much better again; she now goes donkey
rides with an old woman, who compliments her on her French. That
old woman - seventy odd - is in a parlous spiritual state.

Pretty soon, in the new sixpenny illustrated magazine, Wogg's
picture is to appear: this is a great honour! And the poor soul
whose vanity would just explode if he could understand it, will
never be a bit the wiser! - With much love, in which Fanny joins,
believe me, your affectionate boy,


Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR LAD, - Snatches in return for yours; for this little once, I'm
well to windward of you.

Seventeen chapters of OTTO are now drafted, and finding I was
working through my voice and getting screechy, I have turned back
again to rewrite the earlier part. It has, I do believe, some
merit: of what order, of course, I am the last to know; and,
triumph of triumphs, my wife - my wife who hates and loathes and
slates my women - admits a great part of my Countess to be on the

Yes, I could borrow, but it is the joy of being before the public,
for once. Really, 100 pounds is a sight more than TREASURE ISLAND
is worth.

The reason of my DECHE? Well, if you begin one house, have to
desert it, begin another, and are eight months without doing any
work, you will be in a DECHE too. I am not in a DECHE, however;
DISTINGUO - I would fain distinguish; I am rather a swell, but NOT
SOLVENT. At a touch the edifice, AEDIFICIUM, might collapse. If
my creditors began to babble around me, I would sink with a slow
strain of music into the crimson west. The difficulty in my
elegant villa is to find oil, OLEUM, for the dam axles. But I've
paid my rent until September; and beyond the chemist, the grocer,
the baker, the doctor, the gardener, Lloyd's teacher, and the great
thief creditor Death, I can snap my fingers at all men. Why will
people spring bills on you? I try to make 'em charge me at the
moment; they won't, the money goes, the debt remains. - The
Required Play is in the MERRY MEN.

Q. E. F.

I thus render honour to your FLAIR; it came on me of a clap; I do
not see it yet beyond a kind of sunset glory. But it's there:
passion, romance, the picturesque, involved: startling, simple,
horrid: a sea-pink in sea-froth! S'AGIT DE LA DESENTERRER.
'Help!' cries a buried masterpiece.

Once I see my way to the year's end, clear, I turn to plays; till
then I grind at letters; finish OTTO; write, say, a couple of my
TRAVELLER'S TALES; and then, if all my ships come home, I will
attack the drama in earnest. I cannot mix the skeins. Thus,
though I'm morally sure there is a play in OTTO, I dare not look
for it: I shoot straight at the story.

As a story, a comedy, I think OTTO very well constructed; the
echoes are very good, all the sentiments change round, and the
points of view are continually, and, I think (if you please),
happily contrasted. None of it is exactly funny, but some of it is

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - I have now leisurely read your volume; pretty
soon, by the way, you will receive one of mine.

It is a pleasant, instructive, and scholarly volume. The three
best being, quite out of sight - Crashaw, Otway, and Etherege.
They are excellent; I hesitate between them; but perhaps Crashaw is
the most brilliant

Your Webster is not my Webster; nor your Herrick my Herrick. On
these matters we must fire a gun to leeward, show our colours, and
go by. Argument is impossible. They are two of my favourite
authors: Herrick above all: I suppose they are two of yours.
Well, Janus-like, they do behold us two with diverse countenances,
few features are common to these different avatars; and we can but
agree to differ, but still with gratitude to our entertainers, like
two guests at the same dinner, one of whom takes clear and one
white soup. By my way of thinking, neither of us need be wrong.

The other papers are all interesting, adequate, clear, and with a
pleasant spice of the romantic. It is a book you may be well
pleased to have so finished, and will do you much good. The
Crashaw is capital: capital; I like the taste of it. Preface
clean and dignified. The handling throughout workmanlike, with
some four or five touches of preciosity, which I regret.

With my thanks for information, entertainment, and a pleasurable
envy here and there. - Yours affectionately,

R. L. S.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


DEAR BOY, - Our letters vigorously cross: you will ere this have
received a note to Coggie: God knows what was in it.

It is strange, a little before the first word you sent me - so late
- kindly late, I know and feel - I was thinking in my bed, when I
knew you I had six friends - Bob I had by nature; then came the
good James Walter - with all his failings - the GENTLEMAN of the
lot, alas to sink so low, alas to do so little, but now, thank God,
in his quiet rest; next I found Baxter - well do I remember telling
Walter I had unearthed 'a W.S. that I thought would do' - it was in
the Academy Lane, and he questioned me as to the Signet's
qualifications; fourth came Simpson; somewhere about the same time,
I began to get intimate with Jenkin; last came Colvin. Then, one
black winter afternoon, long Leslie Stephen, in his velvet jacket,
met me in the SPEC. by appointment, took me over to the infirmary,
and in the crackling, blighting gaslight showed me that old head
whose excellent representation I see before me in the photograph.
Now when a man has six friends, to introduce a seventh is usually
hopeless. Yet when you were presented, you took to them and they
to you upon the nail. You must have been a fine fellow; but what a
singular fortune I must have had in my six friends that you should
take to all. I don't know if it is good Latin, most probably not:
but this is enscrolled before my eye for Walter: TANDEM E NUBIBUS
IN APRICUM PROPERAT. Rest, I suppose, I know, was all that
remained; but O to look back, to remember all the mirth, all the
kindness, all the humorous limitations and loved defects of that
character; to think that he was young with me, sharing that
weather-beaten, Fergussonian youth, looking forward through the
clouds to the sunburst; and now clean gone from my path, silent -
well, well. This has been a strange awakening. Last night, when I
was alone in the house, with the window open on the lovely still
night, I could have sworn he was in the room with me; I could show
you the spot; and, what was very curious, I heard his rich
laughter, a thing I had not called to mind for I know not how long.

I see his coral waistcoat studs that he wore the first time he
dined in my house; I see his attitude, leaning back a little,
already with something of a portly air, and laughing internally.
How I admired him! And now in the West Kirk.

I am trying to write out this haunting bodily sense of absence;
besides, what else should I write of?

Yes, looking back, I think of him as one who was good, though
sometimes clouded. He was the only gentle one of all my friends,
save perhaps the other Walter. And he was certainly the only
modest man among the lot. He never gave himself away; he kept back
his secret; there was always a gentle problem behind all. Dear,
dear, what a wreck; and yet how pleasant is the retrospect! God
doeth all things well, though by what strange, solemn, and
murderous contrivances!

It is strange: he was the only man I ever loved who did not
habitually interrupt. The fact draws my own portrait. And it is
one of the many reasons why I count myself honoured by his
friendship. A man like you HAD to like me; you could not help
yourself; but Ferrier was above me, we were not equals; his true
self humoured and smiled paternally upon my failings, even as I
humoured and sorrowed over his.

Well, first his mother, then himself, they are gone: 'in their
resting graves.'

When I come to think of it, I do not know what I said to his
sister, and I fear to try again. Could you send her this? There
is too much both about yourself and me in it; but that, if you do
not mind, is but a mark of sincerity. It would let her know how
entirely, in the mind of (I suppose) his oldest friend, the good,
true Ferrier obliterates the memory of the other, who was only his
'lunatic brother.'

Judge of this for me, and do as you please; anyway, I will try to
write to her again; my last was some kind of scrawl that I could
not see for crying. This came upon me, remember, with terrible
suddenness; I was surprised by this death; and it is fifteen or
sixteen years since first I saw the handsome face in the SPEC. I
made sure, besides, to have died first. Love to you, your wife,
and her sisters.

- Ever yours, dear boy,

R. L. S.

I never knew any man so superior to himself as poor James Walter.
The best of him only came as a vision, like Corsica from the
Corniche. He never gave his measure either morally or
intellectually. The curse was on him. Even his friends did not
know him but by fits. I have passed hours with him when he was so
wise, good, and sweet, that I never knew the like of it in any
other. And for a beautiful good humour he had no match. I
remember breaking in upon him once with a whole red-hot story (in
my worst manner), pouring words upon him by the hour about some
truck not worth an egg that had befallen me; and suddenly, some
half hour after, finding that the sweet fellow had some concern of
his own of infinitely greater import, that he was patiently and
smilingly waiting to consult me on. It sounds nothing; but the
courtesy and the unselfishness were perfect. It makes me rage to
think how few knew him, and how many had the chance to sneer at
their better.

Well, he was not wasted, that we know; though if anything looked
liker irony than this fitting of a man out with these rich
qualities and faculties to be wrecked and aborted from the very
stocks, I do not know the name of it. Yet we see that he has left
an influence; the memory of his patient courtesy has often checked
me in rudeness; has it not you?

You can form no idea of how handsome Walter was. At twenty he was
splendid to see; then, too, he had the sense of power in him, and
great hopes; he looked forward, ever jesting of course, but he
looked to see himself where he had the right to expect. He
believed in himself profoundly; but HE NEVER DISBELIEVED IN OTHERS.
To the roughest Highland student he always had his fine, kind, open
dignity of manner; and a good word behind his back.

The last time that I saw him before leaving for America - it was a
sad blow to both of us. When he heard I was leaving, and that
might be the last time we might meet - it almost was so - he was
terribly upset, and came round at once. We sat late, in Baxter's
empty house, where I was sleeping. My dear friend Walter Ferrier:
O if I had only written to him more! if only one of us in these
last days had been well! But I ever cherished the honour of his
friendship, and now when he is gone, I know what I have lost still
better. We live on, meaning to meet; but when the hope is gone,
the, pang comes.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR GOSSE, - It appears a bolt from Transatlantica is necessary
to produce four lines from you. It is not flattering; but as I was
always a bad correspondent, 'tis a vice to which I am lenient. I
give you to know, however, that I have already twice (this makes
three times) sent you what I please to call a letter, and received
from you in return a subterfuge - or nothing. . . .

My present purpose, however, which must not be postponed, is to ask
you to telegraph to the Americans.

After a summer of good health of a very radiant order, toothache
and the death of a very old friend, which came upon me like a
thunderclap, have rather shelved my powers. I stare upon the
paper, not write. I wish I could write like your Sculptors; yet I
am well aware that I should not try in that direction. A certain
warmth (tepid enough) and a certain dash of the picturesque are my
poor essential qualities; and if I went fooling after the too
classical, I might lose even these. But I envied you that page.

I am, of course, deep in schemes; I was so ever. Execution alone
somewhat halts. How much do you make per annum, I wonder? This
year, for the first time, I shall pass 300 pounds; I may even get
halfway to the next milestone. This seems but a faint
remuneration; and the devil of it is, that I manage, with sickness,
and moves, and education, and the like, to keep steadily in front
of my income. However, I console myself with this, that if I were
anything else under God's Heaven, and had the same crank health, I
should make an even zero. If I had, with my present knowledge,
twelve months of my old health, I would, could, and should do
something neat. As it is, I have to tinker at my things in little
sittings; and the rent, or the butcher, or something, is always
calling me off to rattle up a pot-boiler. And then comes a back-
set of my health, and I have to twiddle my fingers and play

Well, I do not complain, but I do envy strong health where it is
squandered. Treasure your strength, and may you never learn by
experience the profound ENNUI and irritation of the shelved artist.
For then, what is life? All that one has done to make one's life
effective then doubles the itch of inefficiency.

I trust also you may be long without finding out the devil that
there is in a bereavement. After love it is the one great surprise
that life preserves for us. Now I don't think I can be astonished
any more. - Yours affectionately,

R. L. S.



COLVIN, COLVIN, COLVIN, - Yours received; also interesting copy of
P. WHISTLES. 'In the multitude of councillors the Bible declares
there is wisdom,' said my great-uncle, 'but I have always found in
them distraction.' It is extraordinary how tastes vary: these
proofs have been handed about, it appears, and I have had several
letters; and - distraction. 'AEsop: the Miller and the Ass.'
Notes on details:-

1. I love the occasional trochaic line; and so did many excellent
writers before me.

2. If you don't like 'A Good Boy,' I do.

3. In 'Escape at Bedtime,' I found two suggestions. 'Shove' for
'above' is a correction of the press; it was so written.
'Twinkled' is just the error; to the child the stars appear to be
there; any word that suggests illusion is a horror.

4. I don't care; I take a different view of the vocative.

5. Bewildering and childering are good enough for me. These are
rhymes, jingles; I don't go for eternity and the three unities.

I will delete some of those condemned, but not all. I don't care
for the name Penny Whistles; I sent a sheaf to Henley when I sent
'em. But I've forgot the others. I would just as soon call 'em
'Rimes for Children' as anything else. I am not proud nor

Your remarks on the BLACK ARROW are to the point. I am pleased you
liked Crookback; he is a fellow whose hellish energy has always
fired my attention. I wish Shakespeare had written the play after
he had learned some of the rudiments of literature and art rather
than before. Some day, I will re-tickle the Sable Missile, and
shoot it, MOYENNANT FINANCES, once more into the air; I can lighten
it of much, and devote some more attention to Dick o' Gloucester.
It's great sport to write tushery.

By this I reckon you will have heard of my proposed excursiolorum
to the Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece, and kindred sites. If
the excursiolorum goes on, that is, if MOYENNANT FINANCES comes
off, I shall write to beg you to collect introductiolorums for me.

Distinguo: 1. SILVERADO was not written in America, but in
Switzerland's icy mountains. 2. What you read is the bleeding and
disembowelled remains of what I wrote. 3. The good stuff is all to
come - so I think. 'The Sea Fogs,' 'The Hunter's Family,' 'Toils
and Pleasures' - BELLES PAGES. - Yours ever,


O! - Seeley is too clever to live, and the book a gem. But why has
he read too much Arnold? Why will he avoid - obviously avoid -
fine writing up to which he has led? This is a winking, curled-
and-oiled, ultra-cultured, Oxford-don sort of an affectation that
infuriates my honest soul. 'You see' - they say - 'how unbombastic
WE are; we come right up to eloquence, and, when it's hanging on
the pen, dammy, we scorn it!' It is literary Deronda-ism. If you
don't want the woman, the image, or the phrase, mortify your vanity
and avoid the appearance of wanting them.

Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - . . . Some day or other, in Cassell's MAGAZINE OF
ART, you will see a paper which will interest you, and where your
name appears. It is called 'Fontainebleau: Village Communities of
Artists,' and the signature of R. L. Stevenson will be found

Please tell the editor of MANHATTAN the following secrets for me:
1ST, That I am a beast; 2ND, that I owe him a letter; 3RD, that I
have lost his, and cannot recall either his name or address; 4TH,
that I am very deep in engagements, which my absurd health makes it
hard for me to overtake; but 5TH, that I will bear him in mind; 6TH
and last, that I am a brute.

My address is still the same, and I live in a most sweet corner of
the universe, sea and fine hills before me, and a rich variegated
plain; and at my back a craggy hill, loaded with vast feudal ruins.
I am very quiet; a person passing by my door half startles me; but
I enjoy the most aromatic airs, and at night the most wonderful
view into a moonlit garden. By day this garden fades into nothing,
overpowered by its surroundings and the luminous distance; but at
night and when the moon is out, that garden, the arbour, the flight
of stairs that mount the artificial hillock, the plumed blue gum-
trees that hang trembling, become the very skirts of Paradise.
Angels I know frequent it; and it thrills all night with the flutes
of silence. Damn that garden;- and by day it is gone.

Continue to testify boldly against realism. Down with Dagon, the
fish god! All art swings down towards imitation, in these days,
fatally. But the man who loves art with wisdom sees the joke; it
is the lustful that tremble and respect her ladyship; but the
honest and romantic lovers of the Muse can see a joke and sit down
to laugh with Apollo.

The prospect of your return to Europe is very agreeable; and I was
pleased by what you said about your parents. One of my oldest
friends died recently, and this has given me new thoughts of death.
Up to now I had rather thought of him as a mere personal enemy of
my own; but now that I see him hunting after my friends, he looks
altogether darker. My own father is not well; and Henley, of whom
you must have heard me speak, is in a questionable state of health.
These things are very solemn, and take some of the colour out of
life. It is a great thing, after all, to be a man of reasonable
honour and kindness. Do you remember once consulting me in Paris
whether you had not better sacrifice honesty to art; and how, after
much confabulation, we agreed that your art would suffer if you
did? We decided better than we knew. In this strange welter where
we live, all hangs together by a million filaments; and to do
reasonably well by others, is the first prerequisite of art. Art
is a virtue; and if I were the man I should be, my art would rise
in the proportion of my life.

If you were privileged to give some happiness to your parents, I
know your art will gain by it. BY GOD, IT WILL! SIC SUBSCRIBITUR,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR BOB, - Yes, I got both your letters at Lyons, but have been
since then decading in several steps Toothache; fever; Ferrier's
death; lung. Now it is decided I am to leave to-morrow, penniless,
for Nice to see Dr. Williams.

I was much struck by your last. I have written a breathless note
on Realism for Henley; a fifth part of the subject, hurriedly
touched, which will show you how my thoughts are driving. You are
now at last beginning to think upon the problems of executive,
plastic art, for you are now for the first time attacking them.
Hitherto you have spoken and thought of two things - technique and
the ARS ARTIUM, or common background of all arts. Studio work is
the real touch. That is the genial error of the present French
teaching. Realism I regard as a mere question of method. The
'brown foreground,' 'old mastery,' and the like, ranking with
villanelles, as technical sports and pastimes. Real art, whether
ideal or realistic, addresses precisely the same feeling, and seeks
the same qualities - significance or charm. And the same - very
same - inspiration is only methodically differentiated according as
the artist is an arrant realist or an arrant idealist. Each, by
his own method, seeks to save and perpetuate the same significance
or charm; the one by suppressing, the other by forcing, detail.
All other idealism is the brown foreground over again, and hence
only art in the sense of a game, like cup and ball. All other
realism is not art at all - but not at all. It is, then, an
insincere and showy handicraft.

Were you to re-read some Balzac, as I have been doing, it would
greatly help to clear your eyes. He was a man who never found his
method. An inarticulate Shakespeare, smothered under forcible-
feeble detail. It is astounding to the riper mind how bad he is,
how feeble, how untrue, how tedious; and, of course, when he
surrendered to his temperament, how good and powerful. And yet
never plain nor clear. He could not consent to be dull, and thus
became so. He would leave nothing undeveloped, and thus drowned
out of sight of land amid the multitude of crying and incongruous
details. There is but one art - to omit! O if I knew how to omit,
I would ask no other knowledge. A man who knew how to omit would
make an ILIAD of a daily paper.

Your definition of seeing is quite right. It is the first part of
omission to be partly blind. Artistic sight is judicious
blindness. Sam Bough must have been a jolly blind old boy. He
would turn a corner, look for one-half or quarter minute, and then
say, 'This'll do, lad.' Down he sat, there and then, with whole
artistic plan, scheme of colour, and the like, and begin by laying
a foundation of powerful and seemingly incongruous colour on the
block. He saw, not the scene, but the water-colour sketch. Every
artist by sixty should so behold nature. Where does he learn that?
In the studio, I swear. He goes to nature for facts, relations,
values - material; as a man, before writing a historical novel,
reads up memoirs. But it is not by reading memoirs that he has
learned the selective criterion. He has learned that in the
practice of his art; and he will never learn it well, but when
disengaged from the ardent struggle of immediate representation, of
realistic and EX FACTO art. He learns it in the crystallisation of
day-dreams; in changing, not in copying, fact; in the pursuit of
the ideal, not in the study of nature. These temples of art are,
as you say, inaccessible to the realistic climber. It is not by
looking at the sea that you get

'The multitudinous seas incarnadine,'

nor by looking at Mont Blanc that you find

'And visited all night by troops of stars.'

A kind of ardour of the blood is the mother of all this; and
according as this ardour is swayed by knowledge and seconded by
craft, the art expression flows clear, and significance and charm,
like a moon rising, are born above the barren juggle of mere

The painter must study more from nature than the man of words. But
why? Because literature deals with men's business and passions
which, in the game of life, we are irresistibly obliged to study;
but painting with relations of light, and colour, and
significances, and form, which, from the immemorial habit of the
race, we pass over with an unregardful eye. Hence this crouching
upon camp-stools, and these crusts. But neither one nor other is a
part of art, only preliminary studies.

I want you to help me to get people to understand that realism is a
method, and only methodic in its consequences; when the realist is
an artist, that is, and supposing the idealist with whom you
compare him to be anything but a FARCEUR and a DILETTANTE. The two
schools of working do, and should, lead to the choice of different
subjects. But that is a consequence, not a cause. See my chaotic
note, which will appear, I fancy, in November in Henley's sheet.

Poor Ferrier, it bust me horrid. He was, after you, the oldest of
my friends.

I am now very tired, and will go to bed having prelected freely.
Fanny will finish.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FATHER, - I have just lunched; the day is exquisite, the
air comes though the open window rich with odour, and I am by no
means spiritually minded. Your letter, however, was very much
valued, and has been read oftener than once. What you say about
yourself I was glad to hear; a little decent resignation is not
only becoming a Christian, but is likely to be excellent for the
health of a Stevenson. To fret and fume is undignified, suicidally
foolish, and theologically unpardonable; we are here not to make,
but to tread predestined, pathways; we are the foam of a wave, and
to preserve a proper equanimity is not merely the first part of
submission to God, but the chief of possible kindnesses to those
about us. I am lecturing myself, but you also. To do our best is
one part, but to wash our hands smilingly of the consequence is the
next part, of any sensible virtue.

I have come, for the moment, to a pause in my moral works; for I
have many irons in the fire, and I wish to finish something to
bring coin before I can afford to go on with what I think
doubtfully to be a duty. It is a most difficult work; a touch of
the parson will drive off those I hope to influence; a touch of
overstrained laxity, besides disgusting, like a grimace, may do
harm. Nothing that I have ever seen yet speaks directly and
efficaciously to young men; and I do hope I may find the art and
wisdom to fill up a gap. The great point, as I see it, is to ask
as little as possible, and meet, if it may be, every view or
absence of view; and it should be, must be, easy. Honesty is the
one desideratum; but think how hard a one to meet. I think all the
time of Ferrier and myself; these are the pair that I address.
Poor Ferrier, so much a better man than I, and such a temporal
wreck. But the thing of which we must divest our minds is to look
partially upon others; all is to be viewed; and the creature
judged, as he must be by his Creator, not dissected through a prism
of morals, but in the unrefracted ray. So seen, and in relation to
the almost omnipotent surroundings, who is to distinguish between
F. and such a man as Dr. Candlish, or between such a man as David
Hume and such an one as Robert Burns? To compare my poor and good
Walter with myself is to make me startle; he, upon all grounds
above the merely expedient, was the nobler being. Yet wrecked
utterly ere the full age of manhood; and the last skirmishes so
well fought, so humanly useless, so pathetically brave, only the
leaps of an expiring lamp. All this is a very pointed instance.
It shuts the mouth. I have learned more, in some ways, from him
than from any other soul I ever met; and he, strange to think, was
the best gentleman, in all kinder senses, that I ever knew. - Ever
your affectionate son,


Letter: TO W H LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - C'EST D'UN BON CAMARADE; and I am much obliged to
you for your two letters and the inclosure. Times are a lityle
changed with all of us since the ever memorable days of Lavenue:
hallowed be his name! hallowed his old Fleury! - of which you did
not see - I think - as I did - the glorious apotheosis: advanced
on a Tuesday to three francs, on the Thursday to six, and on Friday
swept off, holus bolus, for the proprietor's private consumption.
Well, we had the start of that proprietor. Many a good bottle came
our way, and was, I think, worthily made welcome.

I am pleased that Mr. Gilder should like my literature; and I ask
you particularly to thank Mr. Bunner (have I the name right?) for
his notice, which was of that friendly, headlong sort that really
pleases an author like what the French call a 'shake-hands.' It
pleased me the more coming from the States, where I have met not
much recognition, save from the buccaneers, and above all from
pirates who misspell my name. I saw my book advertised in a number
of the CRITIC as the work of one R. L. Stephenson; and, I own, I
boiled. It is so easy to know the name of the man whose book you
have stolen; for there it is, at full length, on the title-page of
your booty. But no, damn him, not he! He calls me Stephenson.
These woes I only refer to by the way, as they set a higher value
on the CENTURY notice.

I am now a person with an established ill-health - a wife - a dog
possessed with an evil, a Gadarene spirit - a chalet on a hill,
looking out over the Mediterranean - a certain reputation - and
very obscure finances. Otherwise, very much the same, I guess; and
were a bottle of Fleury a thing to be obtained, capable of
developing theories along with a fit spirit even as of yore. Yet I
now draw near to the Middle Ages; nearly three years ago, that
fatal Thirty struck; and yet the great work is not yet done - not
yet even conceived. But so, as one goes on, the wood seems to
thicken, the footpath to narrow, and the House Beautiful on the
hill's summit to draw further and further away. We learn, indeed,
to use our means; but only to learn, along with it, the paralysing
knowledge that these means are only applicable to two or three poor
commonplace motives. Eight years ago, if I could have slung ink as
I can now, I should have thought myself well on the road after
Shakespeare; and now - I find I have only got a pair of walking-
shoes and not yet begun to travel. And art is still away there on
the mountain summit. But I need not continue; for, of course, this
is your story just as much as it is mine; and, strange to think, it
was Shakespeare's too, and Beethoven's, and Phidias's. It is a
blessed thing that, in this forest of art, we can pursue our wood-
lice and sparrows, AND NOT CATCH THEM, with almost the same fervour
of exhilaration as that with which Sophocles hunted and brought
down the Mastodon.

Tell me something of your work, and your wife. - My dear fellow, I
am yours ever,


My wife begs to be remembered to both of you; I cannot say as much
for my dog, who has never seen you, but he would like, on general
principles, to bite you.

Letter: TO W. E. HENLEY


MY DEAR LAD, - . . . Of course, my seamanship is jimmy: did I not
beseech you I know not how often to find me an ancient mariner -
and you, whose own wife's own brother is one of the ancientest, did
nothing for me? As for my seamen, did Runciman ever know
eighteenth century buccaneers? No? Well, no more did I. But I
have known and sailed with seamen too, and lived and eaten with
them; and I made my put-up shot in no great ignorance, but as a
put-up thing has to be made, I.E. to be coherent and picturesque,
and damn the expense. Are they fairly lively on the wires? Then,
favour me with your tongues. Are they wooden, and dim, and no
sport? Then it is I that am silent, otherwise not. The work,
strange as it may sound in the ear, is not a work of realism. The
next thing I shall hear is that the etiquette is wrong in Otto's
Court! With a warrant, and I mean it to be so, and the whole
matter never cost me half a thought. I make these paper people to
please myself, and Skelt, and God Almighty, and with no ulterior
purpose. Yet am I mortal myself; for, as I remind you, I begged
for a supervising mariner. However, my heart is in the right
place. I have been to sea, but I never crossed the threshold of a
court; and the courts shall be the way I want 'em.

I'm glad to think I owe you the review that pleased me best of all
the reviews I ever had; the one I liked best before that was -'s on
the ARABIANS. These two are the flowers of the collection,
according to me. To live reading such reviews and die eating
ortolans - sich is my aspiration.

Whenever you come you will be equally welcome. I am trying to
finish OTTO ere you shall arrive, so as to take and be able to
enjoy a well-earned - O yes, a well-earned - holiday. Longman
fetched by Otto: is it a spoon or a spoilt horn? Momentous, if
the latter; if the former, a spoon to dip much praise and pudding,
and to give, I do think, much pleasure. The last part, now in
hand, much smiles upon me. - Ever yours,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - You must not blame me too much for my silence; I
am over head and ears in work, and do not know what to do first. I
have been hard at OTTO, hard at SILVERADO proofs, which I have
worked over again to a tremendous extent; cutting, adding,
rewriting, until some of the worst chapters of the original are
now, to my mind, as good as any. I was the more bound to make it
good, as I had such liberal terms; it's not for want of trying if I
have failed.

I got your letter on my birthday; indeed, that was how I found it
out about three in the afternoon, when postie comes. Thank you for
all you said. As for my wife, that was the best investment ever
made by man; but 'in our branch of the family' we seem to marry
well. I, considering my piles of work, am wonderfully well; I have
not been so busy for I know not how long. I hope you will send me
the money I asked however, as I am not only penniless, but shall
remain so in all human probability for some considerable time. I
have got in the mass of my expectations; and the 100 pounds which
is to float us on the new year can not come due till SILVERADO is
all ready; I am delaying it myself for the moment; then will follow
the binders and the travellers and an infinity of other nuisances;
and only at the last, the jingling-tingling.

Do you know that TREASURE ISLAND has appeared? In the November
number of Henley's Magazine, a capital number anyway, there is a
funny publisher's puff of it for your book; also a bad article by
me. Lang dotes on TREASURE ISLAND: 'Except TOM SAWYER and the
ODYSSEY,' he writes, 'I never liked any romance so much.' I will
inclose the letter though. The Bogue is angelic, although very
dirty. It has rained - at last! It was jolly cold when the rain

I was overjoyed to hear such good news of my father. Let him go on
at that! Ever your affectionate,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR COLVIN, - I have been bad, but as you were worse, I feel no
shame. I raise a blooming countenance, not the evidence of a self-
righteous spirit.

I continue my uphill fight with the twin spirits of bankruptcy and
indigestion. Duns rage about my portal, at least to fancy's ear.

I suppose you heard of Ferrier's death: my oldest friend, except
Bob. It has much upset me. I did not fancy how much. I am
strangely concerned about it.

My house is the loveliest spot in the universe; the moonlight
nights we have are incredible; love, poetry and music, and the
Arabian Nights, inhabit just my corner of the world - nest there
like mavises.

Here lies
The carcase
Robert Louis Stevenson,
An active, austere, and not inelegant
at the termination of a long career,
wealthy, wise, benevolent, and honoured by
the attention of two hemispheres,
yet owned it to have been his crowning favour

(With the consent of the intelligent edility of Hyeres, he has been
interred, below this frugal stone, in the garden which he honoured
for so long with his poetic presence.)

I must write more solemn letters. Adieu. Write.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR HENRIETTA, - Certainly; who else would they be? More by
token, on that particular occasion, you were sailing under the
title of Princess Royal; I, after a furious contest, under that of
Prince Alfred; and Willie, still a little sulky, as the Prince of
Wales. We were all in a buck basket about half-way between the
swing and the gate; and I can still see the Pirate Squadron heave
in sight upon the weather bow.

I wrote a piece besides on Giant Bunker; but I was not happily
inspired, and it is condemned. Perhaps I'll try again; he was a
horrid fellow, Giant Bunker! and some of my happiest hours were
passed in pursuit of him. You were a capital fellow to play: how
few there were who could! None better than yourself. I shall
never forget some of the days at Bridge of Allan; they were one
golden dream. See 'A Good Boy' in the PENNY WHISTLES, much of the
sentiment of which is taken direct from one evening at B. of A.
when we had had a great play with the little Glasgow girl.
Hallowed be that fat book of fairy tales! Do you remember acting
the Fair One with Golden Locks? What a romantic drama! Generally
speaking, whenever I think of play, it is pretty certain that you
will come into my head. I wrote a paper called 'Child's Play'
once, where, I believe, you or Willie would recognise things. . . .

Surely Willie is just the man to marry; and if his wife wasn't a
happy woman, I think I could tell her who was to blame. Is there
no word of it? Well, these things are beyond arrangement; and the
wind bloweth where it listeth - which, I observe, is generally
towards the west in Scotland. Here it prefers a south-easterly
course, and is called the Mistral - usually with an adjective in
front. But if you will remember my yesterday's toothache and this
morning's crick, you will be in a position to choose an adjective
for yourself. Not that the wind is unhealthy; only when it comes
strong, it is both very high and very cold, which makes it the d-v-
l. But as I am writing to a lady, I had better avoid this topic;
winds requiring a great scope of language.

Please remember me to all at home; give Ramsay a pennyworth of
acidulated drops for his good taste. - And believe me, your
affectionate cousin,




DEAR MISS FERRIER, - Many thanks for the photograph. It is - well,
it is like most photographs. The sun is an artist of too much
renown; and, at any rate, we who knew Walter 'in the brave days of
old' will be difficult to please.

I was inexpressibly touched to get a letter from some lawyers as to
some money. I have never had any account with my friends; some
have gained and some lost; and I should feel there was something
dishonest in a partial liquidation even if I could recollect the
facts, WHICH I CANNOT. But the fact of his having put aside this
memorandum touched me greatly.

The mystery of his life is great. Our chemist in this place, who
had been at Malvern, recognised the picture. You may remember
Walter had a romantic affection for all pharmacies? and the bottles
in the window were for him a poem? He said once that he knew no
pleasure like driving through a lamplit city, waiting for the
chemists to go by.

All these things return now.

He had a pretty full translation of Schiller's AESTHETIC LETTERS,
which we read together, as well as the second part of FAUST, in
Gladstone Terrace, he helping me with the German. There is no
keepsake I should more value than the MS. of that translation.
They were the best days I ever had with him, little dreaming all
would so soon be over. It needs a blow like this to convict a man
of mortality and its burthen. I always thought I should go by
myself; not to survive. But now I feel as if the earth were
undermined, and all my friends have lost one thickness of reality
since that one passed. Those are happy who can take it otherwise;
with that I found things all beginning to dislimn. Here we have no
abiding city, and one felt as though he had - and O too much acted.

But if you tell me, he did not feel my silence. However, he must
have done so; and my guilt is irreparable now. I thank God at
least heartily that he did not resent it.

Please remember me to Sir Alexander and Lady Grant, to whose care I
will address this. When next I am in Edinburgh I will take
flowers, alas! to the West Kirk. Many a long hour we passed in
graveyards, the man who has gone and I - or rather not that man -
but the beautiful, genial, witty youth who so betrayed him. - Dear
Miss Ferrier, I am yours most sincerely,


Letter: TO W. H. LOW


MY DEAR LOW, - . . . I was much pleased with what you send about my
work. Ill-health is a great handicapper in the race. I have never
at command that press of spirits that are necessary to strike out a
thing red-hot. SILVERADO is an example of stuff worried and pawed
about, God knows how often, in poor health, and you can see for
yourself the result: good pages, an imperfect fusion, a certain
languor of the whole. Not, in short, art. I have told Roberts to
send you a copy of the book when it appears, where there are some
fair passages that will be new to you. My brief romance, PRINCE
OTTO - far my most difficult adventure up to now - is near an end.
I have still one chapter to write DE FOND EN COMBLE, and three or
four to strengthen or recast. The rest is done. I do not know if
I have made a spoon, or only spoiled a horn; but I am tempted to
hope the first. If the present bargain hold, it will not see the
light of day for some thirteen months. Then I shall be glad to
know how it strikes you. There is a good deal of stuff in it, both
dramatic and, I think, poetic; and the story is not like these
purposeless fables of to-day, but is, at least, intended to stand
FIRM upon a base of philosophy - or morals - as you please. It has
been long gestated, and is wrought with care. ENFIN, NOUS VERRONS.
My labours have this year for the first time been rewarded with
upwards of 350 pounds; that of itself, so base we are! encourages
me; and the better tenor of my health yet more. - Remember me to
Mrs. Low, and believe me, yours most sincerely,




MY DEAR FATHER, - I do not know which of us is to blame; I suspect
it is you this time. The last accounts of you were pretty good, I
was pleased to see; I am, on the whole, very well - suffering a
little still from my fever and liver complications, but better.

I have just finished re-reading a book, which I counsel you above
all things NOT to read, as it has made me very ill, and would make
you worse - Lockhart's SCOTT. It is worth reading, as all things
are from time to time that keep us nose to nose with fact; though I
think such reading may be abused, and that a great deal of life is
better spent in reading of a light and yet chivalrous strain.
Thus, no Waverley novel approaches in power, blackness, bitterness,
and moral elevation to the diary and Lockhart's narrative of the
end; and yet the Waverley novels are better reading for every day
than the Life. You may take a tonic daily, but not phlebotomy.

The great double danger of taking life too easily, and taking it
too hard, how difficult it is to balance that! But we are all too
little inclined to faith; we are all, in our serious moments, too
much inclined to forget that all are sinners, and fall justly by
their faults, and therefore that we have no more to do with that
than with the thunder-cloud; only to trust, and do our best, and
wear as smiling a face as may be for others and ourselves. But
there is no royal road among this complicated business. Hegel the
German got the best word of all philosophy with his antinomies:
the contrary of everything is its postulate. That is, of course,
grossly expressed, but gives a hint of the idea, which contains a
great deal of the mysteries of religion, and a vast amount of the
practical wisdom of life. For your part, there is no doubt as to
your duty - to take things easy and be as happy as you can, for
your sake, and my mother's, and that of many besides. Excuse this
sermon. - Ever your loving son,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER, - This it is supposed will reach you
about Christmas, and I believe I should include Lloyd in the
greeting. But I want to lecture my father; he is not grateful
enough; he is like Fanny; his resignation is not the 'true blue.'
A man who has gained a stone; whose son is better, and, after so
many fears to the contrary, I dare to say, a credit to him; whose
business is arranged; whose marriage is a picture - what I should
call resignation in such a case as his would be to 'take down his
fiddle and play as lood as ever he could.' That and nought else.
And now, you dear old pious ingrate, on this Christmas morning,
think what your mercies have been; and do not walk too far before
your breakfast - as far as to the top of India Street, then to the
top of Dundas Street, and then to your ain stair heid; and do not
forget that even as LABORARE, so JOCULARI, EST ORARE; and to be
happy the first step to being pious.

I have as good as finished my novel, and a hard job it has been -
but now practically over, LAUS DEO! My financial prospects better
than ever before; my excellent wife a touch dolorous, like Mr.
Tommy; my Bogue quite converted, and myself in good spirits. O,
send Curry Powder per Baxter.

R. L. S.



MY DEAR MOTHER, - I give my father up. I give him a parable: that
the Waverley novels are better reading for every day than the
tragic Life. And he takes it backside foremost, and shakes his
head, and is gloomier than ever. Tell him that I give him up. I
don't want no such a parent. This is not the man for my money. I
do not call that by the name of religion which fills a man with
bile. I write him a whole letter, bidding him beware of extremes,
and telling him that his gloom is gallows-worthy; and I get back an
answer - Perish the thought of it.

Here am I on the threshold of another year, when, according to all
human foresight, I should long ago have been resolved into my
elements; here am I, who you were persuaded was born to disgrace
you - and, I will do you the justice to add, on no such
insufficient grounds - no very burning discredit when all is done;
here am I married, and the marriage recognised to be a blessing of
the first order, A1 at Lloyd's. There is he, at his not first
youth, able to take more exercise than I at thirty-three, and
gaining a stone's weight, a thing of which I am incapable. There
are you; has the man no gratitude? There is Smeoroch: is he
blind? Tell him from me that all this is


I will think more of his prayers when I see in him a spirit of
PRAISE. Piety is a more childlike and happy attitude than he
admits. Martha, Martha, do you hear the knocking at the door? But
Mary was happy. Even the Shorter Catechism, not the merriest
epitome of religion, and a work exactly as pious although not quite
so true as the multiplication table - even that dry-as-dust epitome
begins with a heroic note. What is man's chief end? Let him study
that; and ask himself if to refuse to enjoy God's kindest gifts is
in the spirit indicated. Up, Dullard! It is better service to
enjoy a novel than to mump.

I have been most unjust to the Shorter Catechism, I perceive. I
wish to say that I keenly admire its merits as a performance; and
that all that was in my mind was its peculiarly unreligious and
unmoral texture; from which defect it can never, of course,
exercise the least influence on the minds of children. But they
learn fine style and some austere thinking unconsciously. - Ever
your loving son,

R. L. S.



MY DEAR PEOPLE, - A Good New Year to you. The year closes, leaving
me with 50 pounds in the bank, owing no man nothing, 100 pounds
more due to me in a week or so, and 150 pounds more in the course
of the month; and I can look back on a total receipt of 465 pounds,
0s. 6d. for the last twelve months!

And yet I am not happy!

Yet I beg! Here is my beggary:-

1. Sellar's Trial.
2. George Borrow's Book about Wales.
3. My Grandfather's Trip to Holland.
4. And (but this is, I fear, impossible) the Bell Rock Book.

When I think of how last year began, after four months of sickness
and idleness, all my plans gone to water, myself starting alone, a
kind of spectre, for Nice - should I not be grateful? Come, let us
sing unto the Lord!

Nor should I forget the expected visit, but I will not believe in
that till it befall; I am no cultivator of disappointments, 'tis a
herb that does not grow in my garden; but I get some good crops
both of remorse and gratitude. The last I can recommend to all
gardeners; it grows best in shiny weather, but once well grown, is
very hardy; it does not require much labour; only that the
husbandman should smoke his pipe about the flower-plots and admire
God's pleasant wonders. Winter green (otherwise known as
Resignation, or the 'false gratitude plant') springs in much the
same soil; is little hardier, if at all; and requires to be so dug
about and dunged, that there is little margin left for profit. The
variety known as the Black Winter green (H. V. Stevensoniana) is
rather for ornament than profit.

'John, do you see that bed of resignation?' - 'It's doin' bravely,
sir.' - 'John, I will not have it in my garden; it flatters not the
eye and comforts not the stomach; root it out.' - 'Sir, I ha'e seen
o' them that rase as high as nettles; gran' plants!' - 'What then?
Were they as tall as alps, if still unsavoury and bleak, what
matters it? Out with it, then; and in its place put Laughter and a
Good Conceit (that capital home evergreen), and a bush of Flowering
Piety - but see it be the flowering sort - the other species is no
ornament to any gentleman's Back Garden.'




MY DEAR S. C., - You will already have received a not very sane
note from me; so your patience was rewarded - may I say, your
patient silence? However, now comes a letter, which on receipt, I
thus acknowledge.

I have already expressed myself as to the political aspect. About
Grahame, I feel happier; it does seem to have been really a good,
neat, honest piece of work. We do not seem to be so badly off for
commanders: Wolseley and Roberts, and this pile of Woods,
Stewarts, Alisons, Grahames, and the like. Had we but ONE
statesman on any side of the house!

Two chapters of OTTO do remain: one to rewrite, one to create; and
I am not yet able to tackle them. For me it is my chief o' works;
hence probably not so for others, since it only means that I have
here attacked the greatest difficulties. But some chapters towards
the end: three in particular - I do think come off. I find them
stirring, dramatic, and not unpoetical. We shall see, however; as
like as not, the effort will be more obvious than the success.
For, of course, I strung myself hard to carry it out. The next
will come easier, and possibly be more popular. I believe in the
covering of much paper, each time with a definite and not too

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